Breakfast at Rose Bakery and Two Hands

Planning brunch is a struggle. The criteria is always the same–somewhere cute, with good food, preferably with some healthyish options like avocado toast, not too crowded, no waiting and preferably downtown. It’s nearly impossible to coordinate a brunch that checks the box on all of these things, because everyone wants the same thing. Friends try to be helpful by recommending Egg Shop or Prune or Bubby’s, which really isn’t because these places are always packed and don’t take reservations.

gentlemen (and ladies) are welcome at two hands
gentlemen (and ladies) are always welcome at two hands

So really your best option is to arrive on the early side as in before 11:30 am and cut your wait time by half. This is what we did when we planned for brunch at the new Two Hands restaurant in Tribeca. Two Hands is an enormously popular cafe in Nolita that somehow manages to be a recruiting center for the hot Aussies in New York. They’ve opened another bigger location that is now a proper restaurant, and it’s just as packed and just as Aussie as ever. We waited for 30 minutes for a table of three, something that comes with the territory.

a flat white to start off the day
a flat white to start off the day

It makes for good people watching. A lot of people wearing denim or leather jackets will be sitting around you. One afternoon I even saw Alexander Wang grabbing a coffee here. If you want something cute and sceney and downtown, you can’t ask for more. And the stylish girls always want something healthy, so you can expect lots of wholesome ingredients on top of toast or bowls with lots of nutritious grains and greens.

avocado toast
smashed avocado toast
broccolini bowl
brassicas bowl with charred broccolini, brussel sprouts, kale, hummus, soft boiled egg and avocado
beet cured salmon with poached egg, fennel yogurt, pickles and capers on rye caraway
beet cured salmon with poached egg, fennel yogurt, pickles and capers on rye caraway
two hands beef burger with a side of crispy potatoes
two hands beef burger with a side of crispy potatoes

The avocado toast is solid, it has a little bit of a spicy kick from the chili oil and good texture from the pepitas and watercress that make it a little more interesting than all the other avocado toasts out there. I also liked the beet cured salmon on toast served with a creamy fennel yogurt spread, which was a nice, lighter and less carby spin on smoked salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. If you don’t want carbs at all, you can opt for the brassicas bowl, which has nary a bread in sight, only veggies that are mostly green–kale, brussels sprouts, broccolini, peas and beans. Truth be told, I’ve had better leafy green salad bowls elsewhere, like at Sweetgreen or El Rey, but it’s above average. And if you’re like eff it, I want more than rabbit food, then there’s a humongous Two Hands beef burger that comes with a side of potatoes on the menu. Everyone wins at Two Hands.

rose bakery at the ground level of dover street market
rose bakery at dover street market

A lesser known secret for a fashionable brunch without the wait is Rose Bakery, the eatery on the ground floor of Dover Street Market. Dover Street Market is a boutique for the most fashiony of people, the ones in the know about obscure brands like Vetements and who can afford to blow their money on hugely impractical Comme des Garçon pieces. By virtue of that, you will be surrounded by well-dressed patrons with the most discriminating of taste, despite its odd location on 30th and Lex. I guess Dover Street Market attracts a pretty niche crowd so not that many people really know about the store, much less the restaurant.

coffee and the most amazing bread
coffee and the most amazing bread
scone with marmalade and honey butter
scone with marmalade and clotted cream

Which is a big win for me since I can drop by at 12 and just slide into a seat. The cafeteria style seating isn’t the most comfortable, and the service can be a little slow, especially on a Sunday, and they seemed to be running low on things, but the baked goods are worth the wait. The house bread is incredible and on par with the best rustic breads that I’ve had at Wildair and Relae. I was also extremely pleased with the scone we ordered. It was not dry, had a little bit of salt to it, and came with the most amazing side of clotted cream that tasted like honey butter. Smearing some of that on with the marmalade was magical, a moment that ranks up there with opening a new package of Chessman Pepperidge Farm shortbread cookies.

lentil and quinoa soup
lentil soup
the farro bowl with chickpeas, mushroom, sunflower seeds and peas
the farro bowl with chickpeas, mushroom, sunflower seeds, beans and peas

The high end shoppers also like to eat light, so the menu is similarly geared towards wholesome items with an emphasis on vegetables and grains. The daytime menu has some key breakfast staples, all-day sweets, different seasonal vegetable sides and a small selection of entrees. I’ve already raved about the scone so you must get those, and the savory items are nutritious and filling. My farro bowl looked like spring was in full bloom, overflowing with a bountiful harvest of green peas, beans, mushrooms and farro grains. Each morsel was incredibly filling in the most meaningful way. You could probably get away with sharing this with another person and not be hungry. For something lighter the lentil soup should do the trick. It’s more liquidy than most lentil soups, but it’s in no way watery and tasteless.

The beauty of this place is that you can linger here, get some reading done, order another pastry or juice once you’re fully digested and then browse the store at your leisure. The prices of the clothes are sky high, so having a meal at Rose Bakery is a more accessible way of experiencing Dover Market without the same investment. And it’ll be your little secret to have in your back pocket the next time someone wants to do brunch somewhere cute and cool with healthy options and a good scene.

Two Hands Restaurant and Bar
251 Church St (between Leonard and Franklin St)
New York, NY 10013
No phone

Rose Bakery at Dover Street Market
160 Lexington Ave (between 30th and 31st St)
New York, NY 10016
(646) 837-7750

Ruby’s Cafe, Aussie Brunch

The Aussies are very much the cool kids at the brunch table. Something about the accent and that boisterous physique drive women crazy, and they’re all pulling up a chair to be around these rugby-looking players who know how to make a mean avocado toast and drip coffee. If you’ve ever been to Two Hands in Nolita, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Ruby’s Cafe in Nolita is a little more too-cool for school than a Two Hands or even its sister restaurant Dudley’s, a restaurant I had written about earlier where I had first seen this Aussie phenomenon take place. The crowd here is a little less rugby and more Acne or Alexander Wang in aesthetic. Think guys wearing cutoffs and girls wearing minimalist jersey dresses with canvas shoes. Large monograms and loud labels need not apply.

the bronte burger, picture courtesy of
the bronte burger, picture courtesy of

Clearly a large segment of the clientele is the health and wellness crowd, and the brunch menu does have your requisite avocado toast and kale caesar salad. But luckily it acknowledges the closeted fat kids who just want a big, juicy burger in a good setting, specifically the Bronte burger. Something about the name Bronte sounds really beefy and robust, and the terrific meat patty lives up to those expectations. It comes with a side of fries or a salad, but really, don’t be annoying, just order those crispy, golden fries, and you won’t be sorry that you did.

green scrambled eggs
green eggs

If going full Bronte is a little too much for you, you can try the green eggs, a bowl of scrambled eggs, spinach, kale, avocado and salsa verde. It sounds like a pretty self righteous brunch item, and it also tastes that way. The leafy greens are front and center, and you can really taste the textures and the slightly bitter undertones of all that roughage. I personally liked how real and earthy these eggs tasted, but if you’re looking for something a little more Grand Slam a la Denny’s, then this isn’t the right egg dish for you. And not to worry, there are plenty of options like that on the menu. Ruby’s may be a little bit of a scene, but like the movie, everyone belongs to this breakfast club.

Ruby’s Cafe
219 Mulberry St (between Spring and Prince St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 925-5755

Aussie Brunch at Dudley’s

Australians always seem to be having fun. Maybe it’s the accent and the sunny beaches back home, but they seem like a positive, upbeat people, and I like being around that energy. Which explains why I was drawn to Dudley’s, an Australian American cafe in the LES that was packed for brunch. I had initially planned on having a virtuous acai bowl at the new Dimes, but along the way, I saw all these fantastic breakie plates and bloody marys at Dudley’s, and I immediately changed my mind. After a 45 minute wait, the three of us were seated inside.

avocado toast with fried egg
avocado toast with fried egg

Dudley’s is perfect for brunch because it’s fun and young, and the food is actually very solid. Like any proper Australian cafe, Dudley’s serves a mean avocado toast, and it definitely appeared to be the dish of choice. The toast is thick and wholesome, filled with seeds and grains in every fiber, and it’s topped with generous slices of creamy avocado, as well as an optional fried egg, which isn’t really optional, you kind of have to get it.

famous bronte burger
famous bronte burger
chicken schnitzel salad
chicken schnitzel salad

If you want something other than breakfast food, then try the famous Bronte burger. I’m not quite sure what makes it famous, but I’m pretty sure it’s the sweet chili sauce and mayo inside. And be sure to order a side of fries, which are amazing–thin, crispy shoestrings that are the bee’s knees. You might also try the chicken schnitzel salad for something completely different. The schnitzel meat inside is tender and the panko crust is crispy without being greasy. If you’ve ever had the coconut chicken fingers at Dishes, which if you have, then you probably love, then you’ll be on cloud nine eating essentially a big plate of this.

I’ve had a pretty good run with the Australians–Two Hands, Toby’s Estate, Flinders Lane, and now Dudley’s. You don’t really hear much about Australian cuisine, but its influence can be quietly felt in this city. All those pretty cafes that serve flat whites and avocado toasts and great salads? Nope, not California, as I assumed, but probably Australian. I wouldn’t mind if Aussie cuisine became a bigger thing, especially if it means more good-looking, rugged Australian men serving me coffee and eggs with a smile…

85 Orchard St (between Broome and Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 925-7355